Chickens

Chickens are smart and caring individuals with their own personalities

Chickens have more than 30 distinct cries to communicate with one another. Mother hens react to the sounds chicks make before hatching. Immediately after hatching, chicks respond only to the calls of their mother.

Chickens display evidence of self-control, empathy and planning ahead. Chickens recognize people, their voices and their own names.

Newborn chicks can keep track of numbers up to five. At just two weeks old, chicks can navigate using the sun.

Chickens can learn to operate switches and levers to open doors to feeding areas or change the temperature in their surroundings.

Have You Met Little Miss Sunshine?

Chicken Slaughter: The Numbers

In Canada, 620-million chickens are slaughtered each year. They are just babies, usually just 33 days old, and still have blue eyes and make soft peeping noises, as they are too young to cluck.

In addition, 32-million egg-laying and breeding “spent” hens, who no longer producing enough eggs to be profitable, are killed every year. “Spent” hens are usually between one to two years old when they are killed. In a sanctuary, hens can live up to ten years.

Source: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada poultry and egg slaughter reports

Farming

Chickens are raised on factory farms, spend their lives in huge, windowless sheds, where they are deprived of perching opportunities and natural light. They are kept crowded in filthy conditions with high levels of ammonia, which cause respiratory disease, painful inflammation of the eyes and throat, weakening of the immune system, and burns and ulcerations on the skin. Lighting is artificially controlled, forcing the animals to endure nearly full days of light or extended periods of complete darkness, depending on the desired outcome.

Chickens raised for meat are genetically selected for rapid weight gain, resulting in chronic bone and foot problems, heart disease and pain.

Chickens are routinely mutilated by being de-toed (microwaving or cutting off of the ends of the toes) and de-beaked (the tip of the beak is either cut or lasered off) without anaesthetic. These horrific procedures lead to chronic pain.

Egg-laying hens are kept in “battery cages” for their entire lives, with so little room to move that they are unable to even spread their wings. Their cages are stacked on top of each other in windowless sheds that often house ten thousand birds. The sloping wire-mesh floor of these cages is designed for feces to fall through and eggs to roll out with minimal breakage for easy collection. The wire mesh results in chickens’ feet becoming sore, cracked and deformed, while the claws of those that have not been declawed or de-toed can curl and twist around the wire. Some hens manage to escape from their cages, only to fall into the manure pits below and either drown or starve to death.

They are forced to produce almost an egg a day (more than 300 a year, whereas in nature, they would produce only 20 or 30 eggs). As a result, they suffer uterine prolapse, broken bones (since the eggs leach the calcium out of their bodies), open wounds and untreated infections.

Egg-laying hens are remain caged for about 72 weeks, at which point their egg production drops and they are killed. By the time of their deaths most have and extensive feather loss of up to 90%.

Photos of factory farm: Jo-Anne McArthur, WeAnimals

Since male chicks are of no use to the egg industry (this includes so-called “free range” industry), millions of newly-hatched chicks are sexed at birth and males are “disposed of” by tossing them into trash bags to suffocate or into a high-speed grinder where they are minced up alive.

A recent investigation at a chicken hatchery by Mercy for Animals Canada captured hidden-camera footage of workers at a Maple Leaf chicken hatchery throwing baby chicks by their fragile wings, slamming them into metal dividers, sending them through an industrial washing machine to be scalded and drowned, and violently cramming them into macerators to be ground up alive.

Transportation

Most birds are hand-caught for transportation.  Workers are paid by the number of birds loaded, not per hour.  This often leads to aggressive chasing and grabbing of the birds, resulting in severe injuries such as dislocations, fractures and bruising.

The average chicken truck carries about an astounding 5,000-10,000 chickens crammed in tight. Birds are often packed so tightly in trucks that that they are immobilized. It is legal to transport them for up to 36 hours without food or water.

Minimal regulations apply to the transportation of chickens and even these are flouted. For example, Maple Lodge Farms is a Brampton-based slaughterhouse which kills 24-30% of Ontario’s chickens raised for meat and 98-99% of the province’s egg-laying hens. The slaughterhouse has been fined numerous times due to transportation violations. Maple Lodge Farms was convicted of animal cruelty in 2013 and 2014 after tens of thousands of chickens froze to death died or suffocated during transportation in cold weather between December 2008 and April 2010, with death rates as high as 58,2% on individual loads. A veterinarian who examined birds that survived noted that some of them were “cold, blue and listless”.

Maple Lodge Farms was convicted under the Health of Animals Act in 2007 after crates with chickens were dropped and at least one chicken at their Brampton slaughterhouse was caught in conveyor belt rollers.

Photo credit: Toronto Chicken Save, Anita Krajnc

Slaughter

Most Canadian slaughterhouses use an “electric-stun bath” method of stunning, which requires birds to be hung upside-down by their legs, while fully conscious, as their heads pass through electrified water. At a rate of 200 birds per minute, the “electric-stun bath” does not render the birds unconscious, but immobilizes them before they reach a spinning blade (similar to a circular saw) which cuts their necks. Many chickens lift their heads to avoid the water and are therefore fully aware when they have their necks cut. Some attempt to move their heads out of the way of the spinning blade, resulting in insufficient injury to bleed to death before reaching the “de-feathering tank” (a tank full of boiling water) fully conscious. The industry refers euphemistically to birds that were cruelly boiled to death as “cherries” or “red skins”.

Source: The occurrence of red-skin chicken carcasses

Millions of the chickens killed in Canada each year are subjected to ritual slaughter, as prescribed by Jewish (Kosher slaughter) and Muslim (Halal slaughter) religious doctrine. The religious tenets include a ban on stunning, stipulations as to who can perform the slaughter, the type of blade used to cut the throat and the use of standard prayers.

How To Go Vegan

The best way to help chickens avoid such an unjust plight is to try a healthy and nutritious plant-based vegan diet. For more information, visit veg.ca/go-veg,  www.veggiechallenge.com,  features.peta.org/how-to-go-vegan and  chooseveg.com for resources to make the switch easy.

Rescued hens arrive at Farm Sanctuary

Mama Hen & Baby Chick – touching scene from Peaceable Kingdom 

 Baby Chicks Ground Up Alive at Maple Leaf Hatchery